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As Simple As A-B-C

Prime Minister Sharon has come in for much criticism both here and in Israel by those who fault him for withdrawing the IDF from Palestinian controlled areas it entered in response to shootings emanating from there. They argue that remaining in those areas for an extended period of time is in Israel's best interests, but Mr. Sharon is nevertheless bowing to pressure from the Bush administration.

Whether the correct policy for rooting out the violence is to reoccupy Palestinian areas at this time for sustained periods, is not clear-cut. In terms of the immediate problem of the safety of Israeli citizens, an on-site IDF presence would always seem to be the more effective strategy. However, there are other longer term issues involving international support which may point to the wisdom of the current “in and out” approach as part of a policy of incremental escalation.

But there is another dimension to this with respect to which we believe that Prime Minster Sharon is right on target. While it is true that Israel has withdrawn from some Palestinian areas, it did not withdraw from all the areas it reoccupied. Rather, it set as an exit condition regarding each reoccupation that the shooting stop and its security demands met. But Israel pointedly did not set a timetable for withdrawals and ignored calls for an immediate withdrawal from all areas.

Thus, some Israeli analysts are saying that Israel has sent a message to Arafat's Palestinian Authority that it is prepared from now on to enter Palestinian areas whenever and wherever it deems necessary, regardless of what the rest of the world says.

And the Palestinians are worried plenty. According to a Reuters dispatch, the Palestinians are alarmed that Israeli forces have been able to maintain their positions for a week in defiance of world opinion. Palestinian political analyst Ghassan al-Khatib told Reuters that Israel's ability to enter Palestinian-ruled areas at will had set a precedent which threatened arrangements which took effect after the interim peace accords were signed in 1993.

After the Oslo accords, he said, the Palestinians took full control of territory known as Area A. They gained only civilian control in territory referred to as Area B, where the Israelis remained in charge of security. Areas under full Israeli control were designated Area C. “We're in a new situation. Israel is showing deliberately that it is getting in and getting out of Area A when it wants,” Khatib said. “Israel's action is changing Area A into Area B.” Khatib said this undermined the Palestinian Authority because it “can't act as a central authority in these areas…. In the beginning, the army made insignificant incursions and got out almost immediately. They then started to enter for longer periods. They have done this gradually, so that the world now swallows it.”

It's really as simple as A-B-C.

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